In recent years a number of criminal convictions that relied heavily on questionable scientific evidence have been reversed. In one well-publicized death penalty case where the defendant was executed, it appears that arson evidence crucial to the conviction was based on faulty science. Science has been misused in a variety of judicial contexts. In 2011 ProPublica, NPR and PBS Frontline teamed up to investigate the abuse and overuse of the child abuse syndrome called “shaken baby syndrome.” Many other media outlets, including the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Tribune and the New York Times, have reported on the fallout in the criminal justice system that results when the judicial system uses junk science to obtain convictions.
Science journalists and science writers are often observers and reporters at the front lines of these legal battles, so it is crucial that they understand how scientific evidence is evaluated, admitted and considered in the judicial process. This workshop will bring together legal experts, forensic experts, journalists, science writers, science journalism students and science writing students to explore a topic of tremendous importance that touches the science journalism, science writing and legal communities. The workshop will include panel discussions by experts in law, forensic science and journalism; breakout sessions aimed at helping science journalists and science writers understand the role of science in the judicial process; and a moot court demonstration of the process for admitting scientific evidence in a criminal proceeding.
This project was funded in full/in part by a grant from the National Association of Science Writers. Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement of or recommendation by the National Association of Science Writers, and any views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the National Association of Science Writers.